March 29, 2002

Didn’t Ask to Be Born

Two stories that are worst case scenarios for any parent. In each story, when you take apart what happened and how it happened, it's hard to see how anyone could've prevented things from going bad.


Host Ira Glass plays tape from the documentary TV series American High of a teenager fighting with his parents about which car he can take out that night. Every family has its own way of fighting and its own particular family dynamic, and if things go terribly bad, it's often hard to figure how the bad things could've been prevented. (1 minute)

Act One

The chronicle of a family that unravelled. Debra Gwartney loved her two oldest daughters like she loved herself. And they loved her in return. But Debra got a divorce, moved the family to Oregon, and relations with her daughters got worse and worse. Finally, at the ages of thirteen and fourteen, they ran away. In this story, Debra and her daughters try and retrace what exactly went wrong. The story was produced by Sandy Tolan of Homelands Productions, in collaboration with Debra Gwartney and her daughters. It's part of the World Views series of first person narratives, which gets funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Debra wrote a book about what happened in their family called Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love. (35 minutes)

Act Two

Brent Runyon tells the story of the day in eighth grade that he set himself on fire...and what led to that. He wasn't a loner, he had friends, his mother was a teacher, his parents took an interest in his life. This is an excerpt from his memoir, called The Burn Journals. (18 minutes)